No contempt of court, efforts to raise funds failed: RCom to SC

The battle between Ericsson and RCom has been raging for more than a year.

New Delhi: Lawyers for Reliance Communications (RCom) and its chairman Anil Ambani on Tuesday argued in the Supreme Court that no contempt of court was made out in the case over a Rs 550-crore outstanding payment to Ericsson. The Swedish telecom equipment maker vehemently contested this and claimed that RCom even concealed some payments it had received, while avoiding clearing the dues as agreed in court.

After a brief hearing, the bench comprising Justices RF Nariman and Vineet Saran adjourned the case to Wednesday. Ambani, who was present in the court, must appear before it in person on Wednesday as well.

RCom tried all it could to clear the arrears, but its efforts to raise funds didn’t materialise after its deal to sell spectrum to Reliance Jio Infocomm fell through, senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the telecom operator and its chief, told the court.



“We tried our best … Things have gone to the IBC (proceedings under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code),” Rohatgi told the bench. Rohatgi and Sibal were assisted by lawyer Mahesh Agrawal.

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Ericsson’s counsel, senior advocate Dushyant Dave, however, alleged that it was a clear case of contempt of court because the company had gone back on its assurance in the top court that it would pay the money. “Undertakings have been breached,” he said. He accused RCom and its chairman of concealing Rs 5,000 crore payments received from the sale of some assets. Senior advocate Anil Kher also represented Ericsson.

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RCom had revealed receipt of the money — a payment of Rs 2,000 crore and another of Rs 3,000 crore — to the Bombay Stock Exchange, Dave claimed, while holding out two papers that he claimed had the information. This is not only contempt but also perjury, lying under oath, Dave charged.

Perjury carries a higher punishment than contempt of court. In contempt it is a maximum of six months, but in perjury it is up to seven years.

Justice Saran, however, said a statement to the BSE was not conclusive evidence of having received payments.

The court clarified that the RCom chairman would have to stay on and attend the proceedings on Wednesday.

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Kher told ET that there was no question of the Swedish company giving up its claims. Ericsson has come down from its original demand of Rs 1,500 crore to Rs 550 crore. “RCom has managed to sell some of its assets after entering into settlement with Ericsson; so now we hope to get our dues ,” he said.

Reliance Telecom chairman Satish Seth and Reliance Infratel chairperson Chhaya Virani also appeared before the bench. The two companies are RCom’s subsidiaries.

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The battle between Ericsson and RCom has been raging for more than a year.

Inquiry into Order Mix-up on Ambani’s Appearance
By: Samanwaya Rautray

New Delhi: The Supreme Court said on Tuesday it had ordered an inquiry into the circumstances under which its order asking Reliance Communications chairman Anil Ambani to be personally present in court in connection with the contempt case filed against him by Ericsson got changed to say that he needn’t appear.

A top court bench, comprising Justices RF Nariman and Vineet Saran, had on January 7 refused to dispense with his personal presence in court. But when the written order was uploaded on the court website, it said “appearance dispensed with,” much to the consternation of the parties involved.

This order was later revised after the court’s attention was drawn to this. Ambani appeared in court on Tuesday.

During the hearing, Nariman told Ericsson lead lawyer Dushyant Dave that an inquiry had been ordered into the episode after his complaint. Officials said on condition of anonymity that the court officers who had got the order wrong had been suspended. They said the word “not” was dropped inadvertently. Sources said the administrative inquiry would recommend disciplinary action if required against the erring officers.

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